University of California-Irvine researchers said they have developed a way to digitally track the spread of the coronavirus, providing a means to keep track of the COVID-19 pandemic and aiding the reopening the state’s economy.
TrackCOVID is a free, open-source smartphone app that creates an anonymous graph of interactions, making it easier to trace when and where people may have come in contact with someone carrying the COVID-19 virus.
The project was detailed in a paper recently published in a health and biomedical journal.
“It’s completely voluntary, said lead author Tyler Yasaka, a software engineer and junior specialist in otolaryngology at the UCI School of Medicine. “We’re actually just tracking the point where transmission could occur.”
Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested that reopening the state’s economy will require six steps, the first of which involves “tracing and tracking individuals” in order to identify those who need to remain in isolation.
The UCI researchers’ app is one of several being developed globally to track the spread of the virus, leading some experts to question the privacy implications of using technology to track where people are. The UCI researchers say their app preserves privacy.
Yasaka said the team has dubbed the areas under control “checkpoints” for contact tracing—the practice of identifying and monitoring individuals who may have had contact with an infectious person as a means of controlling the coronavirus pandemic.
Every time a person gathers with others or goes to a public place, he or she can use the app to log contacts by either hosting or joining a checkpoint, which allows possible paths of virus transmission to be discovered.
Co-author Brandon Lehrich said, “We’re trying to generate as much buzz around our application as possible.”
The third author of the presentation is Dr. Ronald Sahyouni, a biomedical engineer in UCI’s joint M.D./Ph.D. Medical Scientist Training Program.